Hayfever & Allergies - Why they can worsen or develop during menopause

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Menopause Advisor
@EileenDurward
Ask Eileen


10 April 2017

Read the full video transcript below

Today's topic

Hello, and welcome to my weekly video blog. And today on A.Vogel Talks Menopause, I'm going to be looking at hayfever and allergies. Because at this time of the year, especially in the UK, this is the time when allergies often appear. And what we have found is that an awful lot of women are suddenly getting hayfever symptoms and allergies for the first time in the menopause. But I'm going to look at it slightly different today, and I'm going to focus on something called histamine.

What is histamine?

Now, histamine is a chemical in the body that's released when there is some kind of irritant or injury to the body. But what we have discovered is that histamine can also play a big part in other menopause symptoms as well. 
 
Now, histamine normally, is a very important part of the way in which our immune system works. So, if you imagine maybe you're chopping up some carrots for dinner and you end up cutting yourself, what happens is, very quickly, you will notice that the whole area starts to become red, it might become quite hot, and it might get a little bit swollen. And what is happening here is, because there has been an injury, the immune system suddenly jumps in and goes, "Wow, we need to watch this because there could be some bugs getting in through that cut, and we need to make sure that we stop them on the spot."
 
So, histamine is released, and it opens up the blood vessels, it allows more of the blood to get to the injury point, so that white blood cells who fight infection can get there as quick as possible and stop any invading germs causing an infection to the cut site. Now, that's very important, we need this reaction in order to keep us safe every time we injure or hurt ourselves.

Why histamine causes problems during menopause

But the problem is in the menopause, that all sorts of different factors can end up stressing our immune system, and this histamine reaction basically goes wild. It starts to overfire, it starts to fire when it shouldn't do, and this is what very often contributes to a lot of menopause symptoms. 
 
Now, why on earth would the menopause cause problems with our immune system? Well, there's a number of reasons for this.

1. Menopause stresses your nervous system

First of all, we know that the menopause stresses our nervous system, and if the nervous system is jumpy and overfires, that's going to have a possible corresponding effect on our immune system.

2. Menopause causes fatigue

We know that falling oestrogen and all the hormonal changes that are going on can make us very, very fatigued, and fatigue will have an effect on our immune system.

3. Menopause affects your sleep

We know that the menopause can affect our sleep, and if we're getting destructive sleep because of sweats or flushes or anxiety then, very quickly, that can have quite a profound effect on how efficient and effective our immune system is. 

4. Menopause upsets your digestion

We know also, that the menopause can affect our digestion. Now, it can affect our absorption, so we may not be getting all the nutrients that we need in order to support our immune system, but it can also affect our friendly bacteria in our digestive system. And the friendly bacteria are basically the vanguard for our immune system. We need healthy bacteria in order for the immune system to function properly too.

5. Dehydration & liver function

So, we've also got dehydration, that can be a big factor in our immune system, and also liver function. We know that the changing hormones and everything else is going on in the body can stress our liver, and the liver can play a huge part in actually deactivating histamine. 

Becoming more allergic & sensitive to things

So, you can see already that there's a huge number of issues in the menopause that can then have a detrimental effect on our immune system. Now, this reaction with histamine can also trigger other allergies such as skin rashes. You can end up being allergic to things that you weren't allergic to before. It can also cause sensitive skin, it can also cause itchy skin, and it can also cause flare ups in your joints as well. 

What you can do to help yourself

So, what can you do about this whole situation? Well, first of all, look at all the symptoms that I've already mentioned. Is your nervous system under pressure? You know. Maybe look at some extra magnesium, get some nice calming remedies such as Avena Sativa in there as well or a nice vitamin B supplement. Is your sleep interrupted or disrupted? Then, maybe look at herbs such as valerian and hops.

Have you had antibiotics lately? Do you find you get a lot of bloating, a lot of indigestion? Maybe look at taking a probiotic supplement for a month or two just to get those friendly bacteria up and running again.

And remember the fatigue, so try and get a little bit of rest and relaxation in, and your immune system will be eternally grateful even for 30 minutes a day, just to help to calm everything down.

Water, really, really important here. The more histamine in your system and the more dehydrated you are, the stronger the histamine becomes, and therefore, the more you'll react to it and the more swelling, inflammation, and irritation actually occurs.

And your liver, you know, maybe do a month of some liver support work with something like Milk Thistle Complex

Hayfever remedies during menopause

So, looking at hayfever itself, if you find that this spring and summer you've started to get hayfever symptoms for the first time, then you can look at things to strengthen your immune system, you can look at maybe taking a course of Echinacea.

We also do a lovely natural hayfever remedy called Pollinosan. It's homeopathic, seems to work quite quickly for most people, it is fine with other medication, so you can take it if you're on HRT, and it doesn't make you drowsy. So, if you have a very busy life where you have to keep your brain in tiptop condition, then it's something you could actually try as well. 

Keep an eye on the Pollen Count for your area!

If you have suddenly developed hayfever or find that your hayfever symptoms have got worse, then it is important to keep any eye on pollen levels during spring and summer.

Our 5-day UK Pollen Forecast is updated daily and includes pollen counts and information for local areas including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Liverpool and more.

Visit our 5-day UK Pollen Forecast

Itchy skin

If you're getting the itchy skin, if you're getting things like hives, if you're getting flare ups at any point during the day, you can look at nettle. Nettle is a wonderful antihistamine. You can either have nettle tincture, you can also have nettle tea, a couple of cups of nettle tea a day can often be just enough to sort this one out.

Remember vitamin C as well. This is another natural antihistamine, but look at taking it little and often. A huge dose once a day is not going to be as effective as taking it two or three times a day in slightly smaller doses.

If you are getting the itchy skin, if you're getting the irritated skin, if you're getting skin rashes on a regular basis, and maybe if it's nothing to do with hayfever, then look at what you're putting on your skin, look at what you're wearing. 

Sensitive skin

Falling oestrogen can make the skin more sensitive, it can also make the skin thinner, and the skin becomes more reactive to your body creams, your shampoo, your soaps, your shower gels.

And also, the fact that, you know, we wash our clothes in chemical detergents, and then we put fabric conditioner on the top, and that can be enough just to irritate our skin at this particular point.

I know myself, up here in Scotland, in the winter, it can get quite cold, and I always used to find that wearing pure woolen jumpers or occasionally something like angora was lovely and toasty. 
 
But I found going through the menopause, that my skin became really sensitive and if I put on these types of jumpers, my skin would itch whole day long. So, I had to kind of forego those for a little while until everything settled down.

Consider natural products

Look at going for natural washing powders and conditioners, and going for more natural skin creams. And your local health food shop will probably have a nice range that will suit all sorts of purses.

And if you're really stuck, and I've seen me doing it sometimes after having a shower and my skin's been feeling really dry and I've had nothing in the bathroom cabinet, is your coconut oil, which very often you can use for cooking. If you get a nice organic one, you can actually use that for the skin as well and it keeps everything lovely and soft.

What to remember...

So, as you can see, there is a whole range of issues here that can make us more allergic to things, more sensitive to things as well. So, have a good look at what you're doing, and above all, make sure that you're drinking plenty of water because this is one of the best things for helping with the histamine.

So, let me know how you get on, and I will look forward to seeing you next week on A.Vogel Talks Menopause.

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Did you know?

You won’t get the menopause the minute you turn 50! The average starting age is actually between 45 and 55 and it can often depend on a number of factors including hereditary, weight and health, however every single woman will have an individual menopause.

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